Cubs vs. Cardinals Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Bet Sunday Night Baseball Rivalry (May 23)

Cubs vs. Cardinals Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Bet Sunday Night Baseball Rivalry (May 23) article feature image
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Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images. Pictured: Adam Wainwright.

  • St. Louis hosts the Cubs on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball to conclude the day's 15-game slate.
  • The Cardinals are -135 favorites to win but have abused their bullpen this season, and will hope for Adam Wainwright to eat some innings.
  • Sean Zerillo breaks down how he's betting this NL Central rivalry below.

Cubs vs. Cardinals Odds

Cubs Odds +115
Cardinals Odds -135
Over/Under 8.5 (-120 / +100)
Time 7:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Sunday afternoon and via Bet365.

The Chicago Cubs (23-22) and St. Louis Cardinals (26-19) will battle for a series win in a Sunday night rivalry matchup. The Cubs took Friday’s game 12-3, and the Cardinals bounced back on Saturday with a narrow 2-1 win.

Currently, these teams occupy the top two spots in the National League’s Central division. FanGraphs’ playoff odds currently give the Cardinals a 43% chance of making the playoffs and a 35.2% chance of winning the Central, up from 29% and 24.7%, respectively, from their preseason projection.

The Cubs have improved their own playoff odds, too, up from 22.9% in the preseason to 27.1% presently, and their divisional odds have also seen a slight increase (from 19.3% to 20.8%).

To have a shot at making the playoffs, it’s more important that the Cubs are competitive right now. With pending free agents including Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, and an ownership group that is looking to cut costs, even a middling Cubs team might look to sell off pieces before the trading deadline.

Can Chicago keep themselves in the thick of the NL playoff race, or will it be a depressing second half of the summer on Chicago’s North Side?

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Cubs May Have Quick Hook For Zach Davies

Offensively, the Cubs rank 16th this season, with a .320 expected wOBA or xwOBA. Their pitching staff ranks 18th in xwOBA against (.329), and as a team, they rank 24th per Defensive Runs Saved (-9) and 17th per Outs Above Average (zero).

While Chicago has performed like a middling club, they also compiled a 6-0 record against the Dodgers and Mets, so it’s not like they have accumulated many cheap wins.

The Cubs’ bullpen (seventh in K-BB%, seventh with a 3.81 xFIP, and sixth with a 3.53 SIERA) has vastly outperformed their starting rotation this season, which ranks as a bottom-five group (26th in K-BB%, 27th with a 4.46 xFIP, 26th with a 4.55 SIERA) in the majors.

Based upon recent usage, the Cubs should have all of their relief arms available for Sunday night, and they may have a quick hook for starter Zach Davies, who has pitched to a career-worst 5.58 ERA, 6.89 xERA, 5.23 FIP, 5.72 xFIP (4.50 career) and 5.84 SIERA (4.73 career).

Davies has lost a tick off his fastball velocity (down from 88.6 to 87.7 mph) compared to last season, but otherwise there is nothing notable about his profile this year. He hasn’t been particularly unlucky (9.8% HR/FB rate, .319 BABIP, 70.2% strand rate) — Davies has just been getting clobbered — and he’s only completed five innings in four of nine starts.

Ultimately, he’s not that effective and has outperformed his xERA (5.17 and 5.16) by quite a significant margin (actual ERAs of 3.55 and 2.73) over each of the past two seasons. That luck is finally catching up with him.

The Cubs’ offense has been more effective against southpaw pitching (111 wRC+) than righties (98 wRC+) which is good news for Adam Wainwright, though Joc Pederson (career 128 wRC+ vs. righties; 58 vs. lefties) is the ideal platoon bat to stick at the top of their lineup.

The Cubs have a few name-brand stars, but it is nice to see Ian Happ (career 115 wRC+) finally getting a full slate of at-bats this season. At age 26, Happ still has breakout potential, and I think he has a couple of 30 HR seasons in his bat.

Right fielder Jason Heyward is currently on the IL with a hamstring strain.

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Cardinals Continue to Tax Their Bullpen

Offensively, the Cardinals rank 11th this season, with a .327 xwOBA. Their pitching staff ranks 23rd in xwOBA against (.334), and as a team, they rank fifth per Defensive Runs Saved (18) and 18th per Outs Above Average (zero).

The Cardinals have had amongst the worst rotations in baseball this season (29th in K-BB%, 29th with a 4.71 xFIP, 30th with a 4.73 SIERA), and their bullpen (30th in K-BB%, 30th with a 5.01 xFIP, and 30th with a 4.72 SIERA) has arguably been worse.

Moreover, Mike Schildt is running his top arms into the ground, with two relievers (Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes) tied for third in MLB with 22 appearances, and two other relievers (Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley) who are tied for 12th, with 21 games apiece.

Cabrera, Gallegos and Reyes all pitched on Saturday and have each pitched three times in the past five days, but I would expect all three to be in the mix yet again in a close game on Sunday night. Daniel Ponce de Leon has already worked both games in this series, and he might be unavailable tonight.

They’ll need some amount of length from the ageless Adam Wainwright (averaged 5.8 IP/start in 2021), who is posting his best numbers (3.87 xERA) since the 2018 season. Waino has exchanged some curveballs (down from 38.3% to 31.8%) for some additional cutters and changeups this year, otherwise he’s essentially been the same pitcher since 2016 (xFIP marks of 4.06, 4.40, 4.26, 4.39, 4.23, and 4.22 over that span).

Like the Cubs, the Cardinals offense has been much more effective against southpaw pitching (121 wRC+) than right-handed pitching (89 wRC+), but Nolan Arenado has really emerged in May (.451 wOBA, 189 wRC+) and helped to provide a big lift to his new club.

Much more surprisingly, Arenado has actually been a below-average defender at third base (-1 DRS, -3 OAA) thus far, and I think the Cardinals have a chance to repeat their No. 1 defensive ranking from last season (36 DRS) if he gets back to his old form.

Shortstop Paul de Jong is currently out with a rib injury.

Cubs-Cardinals Pick

I projected the Cardinals as 62.5% favorites for the first five innings (F5) and 61% favorites for the full game on Sunday, and I would bet the Cardinals moneyline in either half up to -153 (F5) and -144 (full game), respectively, at a 2% edge on either wager. I’m placing both wagers, to win a half unit on either bet.

I don’t see any value with regards to the F5 total (listed 4.5), and while I see slight value on the full game Under (listed 8.5), I would need +105 or better to bet that Under at more than a three percent edge.

Pick: St. Louis Cardinals F5 (bet to -153, 0.5 units) | St. Louis Cardinals (bet to -144, 0.5u)

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